My Thoughts on the San Diego Education Association’s Tentative Agreement

In San Diego, we have been bargaining for a fair contract, and had come to an impasse with the district. After two days of mediation, a Tentative Agreement was suddenly reached.

Here is what we are fighting for in San Diego Unified:

Fight for 5! Contract Campaign

What Is the Fight for 5?

In the 2014- 2015 school year, SDEA educators are negotiating a new contract and this is what we’re fighting for!

  1. Pay and benefits to attract and keep the best and brightest.
  2. Lower class sizes across the board.
  3. More counselors, nurses and special education support.
  4. More elementary student enrichment classes (and the important teacher preparation time that comes along with it).
  5. Protecting our planning time so we can do our best teaching

We initially asked for a 10% raise. As bargaining went on, it dropped to 7.5%. Not ideal, but not too bad either. We also need lower class sizes. California has the LARGEST class sizes. We recently had bargained for a hard cap for secondary at 36 students. Before that, it had been an average of 36 students. Yes, 36 students in middle and high school. Definitely not the ideal class size for raising achievement.

Here is the Tentative Agreement:

  • 1% raise effective July 1, 2014 (paid retroactively), 4% raise e ective July 1, 2015, and in 2016, SDEA and SDUSD will bargain for additional raises
  • TK– 3 will be reduced to a site average of 24 students per class. In 2016 the cap on upper grade class size (4-6) will be reduced to 35 students for no more than 30 days (down from 36)
  • 54 schools are guaranteed 1 extra certificated staff member.  Of those 54 schools, about 34 elementary schools will be allocated TK—3 teachers at a lower ratio of 22:1 (rather than 24:1)
  • Schools with more students with greater medical needs will get additional nursing help
  • Resource Specialist caseloads will be reduced from 28 to 24
  • Teachers in grades 4-6 are guaranteed an increase in weekly preparation time from 45 minutes a week to 55

So, how does that compare to our Fight for 5 campaign?

Pay: The claim is that our salary will be brought to the median for comparable school districts in CA. However, will it really? We were told that 7.5% would do that. I would like to see numbers. It is also being said that our restoration in pay would be looked at as a raise. I understand that. I don’t agree, but I understand. I do not think 5% is enough. Cost of living is increasing at a high rate. I am currently the only income for my family of four, and it can be a struggle. I worry daily about our finances, and I shouldn’t have to.

Class size: Very glad that TK-3 will be reduced to 24:1 and at some sites 22:1! At my high needs K-8 school, the kinder teachers have 30 students! 30! Children who come in not knowing their alphabet or speaking any English, yet need to be proficient (by Common Core standards) by the end of the year. Yes, that is a great reduction. Reducing in grades 4-6 by 1 student i not great, but a start. However, there is NO reduction in class size for secondary. This really bothers me. I think some movement should have been made. 36 is far too many, and instruction could be greatly improved with lower class sizes.

Arts: I don’t see anything in the Tentative Agreement that would give kids more arts classes. There is language about increasing prep time for grades 4-6 to 55 min. per week, from 45 min. per week, however, most sites already give their elementary teachers 50-60 min. per week. This small increase will not lead to adding any extra teachers to teach art or music.

Remember, a contract is for all members, and I take this very seriously. It is the reason why I voted for the last contract- it protected our newer teachers so they would continue to have a job. I take very seriously the phrase, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All”. So as I think about the contract, it is very favorable for elementary teachers. Not so much for secondary. I would even be willing to take 5% pay increase IF secondary class sizes had been reduced by even only 1 student. I should also point out that reducing class size in secondary has no effect on me right now. I work at a K-8, and at most K-8’s, we have even lower class sizes. My largest class has 28 students, and I believe no secondary class should be over 30, period. So I truly am thinking about if this contract is fair for all members.

I am very conflicted about this agreement. I also thought that since Los Angeles teachers just accepted a 10% increase in pay, this could positively influence our bargaining. The argument that is often used is that we have fully employer paid health benefits. And that is awesome! That is something we nee to protect! But when trying to improve education for children, we cannot ignore the things that will directly impact them- such as lower class size. My initial reaction was that I was going to vote NO on  this tentative agreement. I have listened to both sides present arguments, and I truly do not know how I am going to vote. If I vote no, will we have actions that build up to a possible strike? I cannot afford to  strike. I cannot afford to take any kind of cut to my pay at all. I need to provide for my family. But is this contract worth it?

I truly do not know, and welcome your comments.

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About Heather Poland (ateachersperspective)

I am a public school teacher who cares deeply about education
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One Response to My Thoughts on the San Diego Education Association’s Tentative Agreement

  1. tultican says:

    The fully paid health care is a big! deal. I work in Sweetwater district where they gave that away for other incentives and now it is really digging into our take home bottom line. I am just saying do not undersell your achievement. I really likee your fight for 5. It is the kind of work for our members and our communities that sets teachers apart from the colonizers out there that want to privatize public school using charters, vouchers and testing.

    Liked by 2 people

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